Do you know what your carbon footprint is? Most of us don’t, but it’s safe to say that we all play a part in keeping the earth in good working order. But in this day and age, how can we be sure that we can pass on a good environment to the future generation? Well, it takes a little effort and patience, but it starts with you and your own family. There are so many little things we can all do everyday to make the world a cleaner and healthier place for all to live in.
That being said, we need to share our knowledge with our kids and help guide them into a responsible and ethical lifestyle. Does that sound like a tough job? Don’t worry, it’s actually really simple and even fun! Kids will love learning about the environment and maybe even a bit about science along the way.
Turning the Lights Off
Turning off the lights when you leave a room might be second nature to an adult. After all, most of us are in charge of paying the electric bills and don’t want to dole out extra cash for wasted energy! However, the concept of saving electricity is something that kids must be taught to understand. For many kids, it can be really fun to play with light switches and flip them on and off over and over again, creating their own personal light show. This can be incredibly annoying and frustrating for parents who don’t want to waste energy and be wildly disoriented by flashing lights!
Explaining to kids that electricity is what powers things such as lights, refrigerators,air conditioners, microwaves, some stoves and ovens, and many more household appliances may help enlighten them about their own energy usage. Since electricity can be a tough concept for small children, you might want to take a simple approach on explaining the matter. Electricity is energy that makes many things work, but electricity must come from somewhere! These days, there are ways to create energy that have a low impact on the environment, however, there are still many “unclean” power sources that have lasting negative effects on the earth.
Once children know that their own energy use has a direct effect on the earth, they may think twice before leaving lights on all around the house, or perhaps when leaving the refrigerator door open.
Here’s another one that can really run up the utility bills in the house! Water is a vital part of all of our lives. We need it to drink to stay hydrated everyday, to stay clean, to grow our plants, to take care of our pets, and for so many other important purposes. There is also a finite amount of water for us to use that is recycled in water processing centers, as well as naturally through evaporation and precipitation.
As you may know, processing used water from households is usually done by companies who purify water and pump it through the city’s water systems. The purification process varies from company to company, however, it takes energy and manpower to make this happen. Getting clean water from the tap is simple for the average person, but a lot of work and energy went into getting you that clean water. For kids, this is a process that is hard to conceptualize and might require a mini science lesson, but did you know that many water processing plants provide tours? Some schools include these tours in their field trip rotation, but if your child’s school doesn’t, it might make for an interesting and educational family outing.
Respect the Outdoors
This can start in your own backyard. Help kids plant a garden or tree. Set up bird feeders, a birdbath, and birdhouses. Kids can clean out and refill the bath daily, and clean up seed debris around feeders and restock them.
On a larger scale, you can plan family vacations that focus on the great outdoors. Maybe a summer trip to the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone Park would be a great adventure for your family. Or perhaps shorter trips might include a day at a state or national park. Even a couple days at the beach can offer plenty of opportunities for you to point out and discuss the plants and animals you see and why it’s important to protect their habitats.
Exploring these areas could be a good way to see how humans leave an impact on the places we visit. You may find some trash laying around, or a tree that someone carved into. Whatever the case may be, you might want to have a trash cleanup with your kids and explain how they can help keep nature beautiful for everyone to enjoy.
Ways to Reduce Waste
1. Bottled water is expensive and, experts say, not any cleaner or safer than tap water. In fact, much bottled water is actually tap water that has been filtered. The water that comes out of home spigots in the United States is extremely safe. Municipal water supplies are monitored constantly and the test results made public. And unless they’re recycled, the plastic bottles — most commonly made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is derived from crude oil — can end up in landfills. So have your kids fill up their own reusable water bottles with water from the tap and protect the earth from plastics! If you don’t particularly like the taste of your own tap water, there are filters that can be attached to faucets, or pitchers with installed filters that can make ordinary tap water taste great.
2. Bring your own bags and containers to grocery stores and restaurants. This may feel a bit odd at first, but by bringing your own reusable containers, you’re reducing a LOT of unnecessary waste produced from food packaging and takeout boxes. You know those plastic bags many people put their produce in before checking out? Those can be easily replaced by a cloth bag from home! Also, when eating out at a restaurant, we can’t always finish our food and might want to take home some leftovers so as to not waste any food. The tricky part here is that a lot of restaurants use plastic or Styrofoam containers that aren’t recyclable or often end up in landfills despite being marked as recyclable. The best way to avoid using any disposable products is to bring your own container! Most restaurants should be accommodating and might even be glad to be saving themselves some money by not using their own boxes!
3. Many natural products can replace commercial — and possibly hazardous — cleaning solutions. Just a few examples: to deodorize carpets, sprinkle them with baking soda, wait 15 minutes and then vacuum; use vinegar and baking soda for everything from oven cleaning and drain clearing to stain removal and metal polishing. Lots of websites offer green cleaning tips, and many stores carry pre-made nontoxic cleaners for those who don’t want to make their own. But you might be surprised by what a good job some of your kitchen ingredients can do around the house!
4. Recycling is easy, and in some communities, mandatory. Check with your local recycling office and be sure you know all the rules. Some communities allow all recyclables to be placed in one container, while others require sorting into separate containers. You may need bins for each type of recyclable: one for plastic, one for glass, one for paper, and one for cans. Kids can sort (and rinse, if necessary) items, place them in the correct bins, and take the containers out to the curb for collection. After the bins have been emptied, ask your kids to rinse them out (if they’re dirty) and bring them back into the house or garage. They’ll get used to checking packages if they’re recyclable or not and might become more aware of what impact the things they buy make on the environment.
5. Read together! One of the most famous children’s books to discuss environment issues is Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax. In short, it is a story about the dangers of pollution and its consequences. In the story, the Once-ler discovers Truffula trees and hatches up a plan to turn them into thneeds. Upon cutting down the first Truffula tree, the Lorax appears to “speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues.” The small, hairy character trails the Once-ler during the growth of his business and points out the environmental destruction that happens as a result, warning him of the dangers of his greed. The Bar-ba-loots are forced to leave town as there are no more Truffula fruits to eat. The Swomee Swans, with “smogulous smog” in their lungs, also fly for clearer skies. And the Humming Fish which cannot live in “gluppity glop” and “schloppity schlop” go in search of clean water. Finally, once the last Truffula tree is chopped down, thneed production stops and the Lorax lifts himself by the seat of his pants and flies away, leaving behind a rock with a single word etched on it: “Unless.” As the Once-ler explains to a young boy that has come to speak to him, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” And with that he tosses the boy the last Truffula seed, encouraging him to plant it with the hopes the Lorax and his friends will someday return.
We hope you got some new ideas on ways to inform your kids about going green! Taking care of the earth is everyone’s responsibility, but it doesn’t have to be stuffy or boring. Let’s all love the earth and play our part!